I have become hooked on an old serial broadcast by TCM on Saturday mornings. The 1949 New Adventures of Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder is highly entertaining and not because it is any good. It is riveting in its idiocy, and each week I can’t wait to see what goofiness has transpired in Gotham City since last Saturday.
All kinds of errors abound in this serial, including errors in editing. During one episode, a car full of criminals speeds down a two-lane, concrete highway from the right of the screen. Rather than pan the camera, a cutaway shot is used to show us that they have sped past, only now the criminals are tooling along a one-lane asphalt road. It’s as if the Director of Photography collected shots of cars speeding towards us on one day and cars speeding away from us on a different day. And on a different road.
There are noticeable errors in the props. Consider the photo below. The prop department couldn’t take the extra 13 seconds to stack the boxes with This side up and the arrow actually pointing up? They also didn’t bother to construct a closet in the Bat Cave. In Episode 10, Batman and Robin are seen retrieving their outfits from the second drawer of a file cabinet. Those capes must be permanent press because they’re never wrinkled.
Most of all, there are noticeable errors in reality. Robin drives a convertible alongside a speeding train in order for Batman to jump aboard. The top is up, however, so, defying physics and the owner’s manual, Robin lowers the top while the convertible is at top speed. Everywhere but in Gotham City, this would convert your ragtop into a notop.
Speaking of Batman’s car, the Batmobile had not been conceived in 1949 so the Caped Crusaders cruise around in Bruce Wayne’s car, a 1949 Mercury. The female lead, photographer Vicki Vale, asks Batman, “Does Bruce Wayne know you’re driving his car?” Not very observant, that Vicki. Or anyone else for that matter.
I can’t slip out of my coat when the car warms up, but the Dynamic Duo manage to change clothes in that Mercury. How do they do that? But then, how can Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson see the Bat signal flashed against the sky in broad daylight? When they do, they enter the Bat Cave through a grandfather clock in Bruce’s study. A grandfather clock?
Batman and Robin are constantly overestimating their abilities. Batman will jump on three villains at once, ignoring the odds—and reality—and, of course, he ends up unconscious in a soon to be blown up house or some such predicament. That man has sustained more concussions than a Whack-a-Mole, which may explain why he doesn’t just whip out a pistol or a stun gun or mace or a telescopic baseball bat and save himself a beating. But then, I guess you have no room for that stuff when you are carrying a full-sized acetylene torch, which Batman pulls frm his utility belt and cuts his way through a steel door.
Naturally, the hoodlums all working for “The Wizard” never stick around to make sure that the poison gas actually kills Batman behind that steel door because these knuckleheads are dumber than the plot. You’d think after the third or fourth resurrection, someone would rummage around in the remnants of the blown up cabin or burning outhouse or whatever, to look for a cape or a bat ear or something. I blame The Wizard for hiring second rate henchmen. He may have invented a “remote control machine,” but he doesn’t appear to be much when it comes to judging criminal talent. I guess good help was hard to find back then, too.
The production of this serial is so slipshod that in Episode 8, “Robin Meets the Wizard,” Batman says to his sidekick as they’re driving along with a Geiger counter tracking radioactive money (don’t ask), “Sounds like it’s getting louder.” To which Robin replies, “I guess we’re getting louder.” This makes no sense until you realize that actor Johnny Duncan meant to say, “I guess we’re getting closer.” I’m thinking that the sound editor had already given up by this point.
Not me. I’m not giving up. I can’t wait for the next idiotic . . . I mean thrilling chapter of New Adventures of Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder.
You can catch all the action on YouTube by clicking here.
Actor Robert Lowery, who plays Batman, sounds quite a bit like Adam West. Or vice-versa.
My favorite side note is that Johnny Duncan, the actor who portrays Robin, was such a good swing dancer, that he landed a part in a Benny Goodman movie, The Gang’s All Here, which was the beginning of his acting career. He appears, often uncredited, in a variety of swing movies including Kay Keyser’s Swing Fever, but also shows up in other films throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s and up to 1960 when he had a bit part in Spartacus. This goes to prove that it pays to learn to dance.